Olivia Spencer Bower

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

La Piccola Marina, Capri

  • Presented by the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • Pencil/watercolour
  • 465 x 645mm
  • 69/40
  • 1931
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Brought to light, November 2009- 22 February 2011

Olivia Spencer Bower spent 1929 to 1931 based in England, where she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art under the formidable Henry Tonks, whose pupils included Spencer Gore, Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis and Stanley Spencer. She travelled extensively throughout Britain as well as France and Italy, sketching and visiting art museums. Spencer Bower was based at Capri during February, 1931 where she sketched every day. Her return to New Zealand later that year was a disappointment: ‘Here I was, back from England with my pretty clothes and self confidence I hadn’t had before, and I was incarcerated in the Slump.’

earlier labels about this work
  • In February 1931 Olivia Spencer Bower spent a month sketching and painting in Capri with a friend and fellow student from the Slade School of Art in London. There she started a number of works based on the beach and foreshore.

    This painting has a decorative, stylised feel to it, with the emphasis on the forms. It also shows Spencer Bower’s early ability and success in watercolour. The vibrancy of the colour is achieved by the application of usually just one, perfectly judged, wash to each area.

    Born in England, Spencer Bower was the daughter of the British-born artist Rosa Spencer Bower. The family came to New Zealand in 1919. Olivia studied at the Canterbury College School of Art and the Slade in London in 1929. In 1931 she returned to New Zealand. She devoted her life to painting and, late in her life, established a Foundation which finances an annual scholarship enabling an artist to work fulltime for one year.

    (Watercolour rotation, 2005)